Catering Vans: Choosing the Right Generator

If you have a catering van then the choice of generator you use to power it is a huge decision. 

Not only do you want a generator which is cost-effective, you also want one which is compact, quiet and built for everyday use. 

Realistically, you have two choices when it comes to powering a catering van: a diesel generator or a petrol / LPG generator

There are several pros and cons to weigh up when considering buying any generator for catering vans. 

Predominantly, open frame generators come in petrol / LPG form, unless you’re looking to spend a sizable amount of money on a diesel equivalent. 

With this in mind, we’ll look at the most important pointers to consider when purchasing a petrol open framed generator for your catering business. 

Should you go with diesel or petrol / LPG? 


There is a common assumption that it's cheaper to buy and run a diesel generator than a petrol / LPG generator. In most cases, this assumption is wrong. 

When weighing up the initial cost of a machine, compared with the price of buying cheaper red diesel, the figures don’t actually add up. 

A professional standard Stephill 3kW open-framed petrol generator costs in the region of £700 including VAT, whereas a comparable Stephill 3kW open-framed diesel generator costs in the region of £2,600 including VAT. 

Let's look a little bit closer at the figures. 

On average, an open-frame generator uses roughly one litre of fuel per hour at 50% load. If we take into consideration that a diesel generator costs almost £2,000 more, that can buy you almost 1,439 litres of petrol at an average of £1.39 per litre, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the cost of red diesel in the first place to keep a diesel generator running. 

Put simply, if you buy a petrol generator, you get a massive instant discount in terms of price, but it is slightly more expensive to run over time. 

With a diesel generator, you pay a lot more for the machine upfront, but you save in the long term with the cost of fuel. 

The thing is, by the time you have recouped the initial expensive of the diesel generator, it could be a few years down the line. 

9 hours of work over 5 days is 45 hours of use, and if you consider a working generator's lifespan can be anything from 1,000 to 3,000 hours, you may have gone through one or maybe even two generators before you even get a chance to get your money back. 

Therefore, we always suggest that from a financial perspective, you always choose a petrol generator. 


There's no good having a cheap and powerful generator if it's so loud you can't hear your customers, so having a low-noise generator is always a big consideration. 

Many people simply look a generator which is 'silenced' and assume this is the best option; however, this might not always be the case. 

Open frame petrol / LPG generators are normally louder than an enclosed diesel generator or inverter generator; however, the operation itself is more stable. 

Although the sound is louder, it is smoother due to the way that these generators compress air. Thus, a petrol generator is usually more pleasing to the ears, and even easier to talk over. 

The best piece of advice is to deafen any type of sound by placing the generator behind your catering van or unit or way from the unit where possible and run a longer lead to supply your power. 


When your income relies on a constant supply of power, you need to know that your generator is built to withstand the challenges of day-to-day use.

Many engines would simply give up after a few weeks of commercial work, which is why we always suggest buying a high-quality generator from a reputable brand such as Hyundai, Honda, BE Pressure, Evopower, Stephill, etc. 

Diesel generators are typically used for backup or standby purposes, and are not meant to run for hours day after day. 

Likewise, an inverter generator has a small but very fast engine which produces power for occasional use during caravan, camping and other leisure activities, but can burn out fast if stressed too much for too long. 

Open frame petrol / LPG generators are built to work day in, day out, without any damage being caused to the units. 

If properly serviced and maintained, they can run for 2000-3000 hours before an engine change may be required, which covers a huge amount of work. 

For consistent, day to day use, an open-frame petrol generator is always the best option. 


Since you'll be moving your generator on a daily basis, you want one which is easy to move and won't take up too much space. 

Although inverter generators are always the smallest type of generator available, you should not purchase one of these based on the size for reasons outlined above. 

Diesel generators are much larger than petrol ones. For example, a 5.5kW diesel generator can weight in the region of 150kg to 170kg, whereas a petrol equivalent weighs 70kg to 80kg. 

The weight isn't the only aspect to consider, however, as commercial petrol / LPG generators are housed within an open frame, which can also be used as convenient carry handles. 

So, unsurprisingly, petrol / LPG generators win this round too. 


As you can see, petrol / LPG generators win every round of this debate, and this is why we always recommend purchasing one for catering vans. 

You can see some suggested products below or view our full range of petrol generators here.

If you'd like some more advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 01437 700123, email us at or use the live chat in the bottom right-hand corner. 

We look forward to hearing from you!